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August 2009

Baked Spicy Macaroni and Cheese with Ground Beef and Bacon Casserole

Baked spicy macaroni and cheese with ground beef and bacon casserole is one of our family favorite recipes. This one-dish meal is a cheap gourmet version of America's all-time favorite comfort food. It pairs well with a fresh salad and piping hot dinner rolls.

Baked spicy macaroni and cheese with ground beef and bacon casserole is a great dish to take to pitch-in parties and cook-outs. It can be served for lunch or dinner, as an entrée or side dish, and makes a great leftover meal that can be taken to work and reheated in the microwave.

This Mac' and Cheese casserole can be transformed into a healthier version by using whole wheat pasta, substituting ground beef with ground chicken or turkey, and using turkey bacon instead of pork. I have used low-fat cheddar cheese in the past, but found it to be a bit too rubbery in this particular recipe. I hope you, your family and friends enjoy this macaroni and cheese recipe as much as we do!

BAKED SPICY MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH GROUND BEEF AND BACON CASSEROLE

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Serves: 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 10 – 12 minutes

INGREDIENTS:
1 to 2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 pound lean Ground Beef, Chicken or Turkey
6 slices Bacon, (Pork or Turkey)
1 16-ounce box Corkscrew Pasta (or Elbow Macaroni, Penne or Bowtie)
1 or 2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeds removed and diced
2 medium cloves Garlic, minced
1 16-ounce jar Ragu Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Basil
Salt and pepper, as desired

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place bacon strips in large skillet and cook over medium heat approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side. Bacon should be crisp on both sides for ease in breaking into smaller pieces.
3. Transfer cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up grease.
4. Crumble ground beef into skillet, allowing it to cook in the remaining bacon grease. Stir frequently and break up any large pieces using a spatula. 

Spicy hamburger bacon mixture

5. Using a 3-quart pot, add 2 quarts of water, pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil. Bring to a boil, add pasta and cook as per package instructions.

Spicy hamburger bacon mixture and cooked pasta

6. While ground beef and pasta are cooking, wash jalapeno peppers, remove seeds and dice. If you prefer super spicy, chop entire pepper including the seeds.
7. Remove skin from garlic cloves and mince.
8. Break bacon into bite-size pieces and add along with jalapeno peppers and garlic cloves to ground beef during the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking.
9. Lightly grease a 9x12 baking dish with olive oil.
10. Drain pasta using a colander and transfer to baking dish.

Corkscrew macaroni

11. Drain hamburger mixture in colander and rinse with water to remove excess grease.
12. Add hamburger mixture and Ragu Cheddar Cheese Sauce to pasta. Gently stir to incorporate ingredients.

Mac and cheese casserole

13. Top casserole with shredded Cheddar Cheese. Evenly sprinkle with dried Oregano and Basil.

Spicy hamburger bacon mac and cheese

14. Place Mac' and Cheese in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cheese melts and begins to turn brown on top. 

Baked spicy hamburger bacon mac and cheese

15. Using oven mitts, remove casserole from oven. Allow to sit for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to dinner plates and serve immediately.

Baked spicy hamburger bacon mac and cheese on plate